Abstract: Although people generally need to believe in a just world (where individuals get what they deserve), they often encounter threatening evidence against this delusional belief. Just-world theory assumes that they then resort to defensive strategies that mitigate the negative affect aroused by the evidence. From this perspective, we predict that strong believers in the just world tend to build causal models that make injustice as unlikely as possible, and incur negative affect when they fail to do so. This claim is supported by 3 behavioural studies investigating the causal models people build, the inferences they derive from these models, and their affective state as a function of the inferences they derive. All studies involve 2 causal rules that can be combined in an Enabler or a Collider model, where the Enabler model minimizes the subjective probability of injustice.
Jean-François Bonnefon is a cognitive psychologist at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, which awarded him in 2008 its national award for young scientists. At the University of Toulouse, he is also the director of the CLLE research institute, where more than 150 scientists and staff members pursue research on cognition, language, and ergonomics. His 60 publications cover a large range of topics within the psychology of reasoning and decision-making, plus the occasional foray into Artificial Intelligence. He is especially interested into the way social or emotional issues can temporarily impair rational thought.